China is to set up an offshore observation network by 2020 to cope with disasters, guarantee development of the coastal economy and protect the country’s maritime interests.
A guideline released by the State Oceanic Administration said the network－covering coastal waters, the high seas and polar waters－will be fundamental for China to strengthen its maritime power.
Chen Zhi, an official at the administration’s Disaster Prevention and Reduction Department, said, “Offshore observation capacity has been lagging behind the country’s development in terms of maritime observation methods, infrastructure and technical support.”
He said that as the country looks to strengthen its maritime power, building an offshore observation network is fundamental to realizing the potential of China’s marine areas and protecting maritime interests.
The guideline, released on Dec 17, sets out major task to be completed before 2020, such as building radar stations, tsunami warning observation stations and undersea observation and satellite operations.
The observation network initiative comes amid growing international attention to China’s vast sea area and its rich natural marine resources.
The East China Sea and South China Sea have also witnessed territorial issues in recent years, with Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam posing challenges to China’s sovereignty over islands and waters.
But the overall situation in the region remains calm and discussions on maritime cooperation are mostly pressing ahead among regional stakeholders.
They convene annually to ensure that sea routes are not disrupted by security challenges and that disaster relief efforts are in place to cope with typhoons or tsunamis.
Offshore disasters have caused huge casualties and economic losses to China for years, especially in coastal provinces and regions, according to the oceanic administration.
In 2013, offshore disasters claimed 121 lives across the country, causing direct economic losses of more than 16 billion yuan ($2.6 billion).
Due to global warming and land subsidence, China’s sea level rose 95 millimeters above the average level between 1975 and 1993, threatening millions of coastal residents, according to the administration. The level has continued to rise annually.
Scientists warn that the situation will be worse in 2050, when sea levels may have risen by up to 200 mm, submerging about 87,000 square kilometers and dramatically affecting economically developed coastal provinces and regions.
China has faced increased maritime challenges in recent years, including the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which disappeared en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur on March 8 with 239 people on board, including 154 Chinese.
“The State Oceanic Administration will build a comprehensive marine observation network to further enhance management capabilities in offshore disaster prevention and reduction,” said Wang Fei, its deputy director.